My Broken Wrist Experience
Aren't you too old for that sort of thing?
You may have read some of my other articles about my wonderful mule Rojo. This article isn't about him, but it began with him. I got Rojo last year and worked with him for quite a while and was enjoying riding him every Sunday until he foundered. This is a condition that affects equines when they eat excessively rich foods. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of allowing him to have a little alfalfa hay occasionally as a treat. This was far too rich for him and it resulted in his having very sore hooves and poor hoof growth over a period of time.
My vet and my farrier said the poor hoof growth would grow out but it would take quite a while. In the meantime I wanted to have something to ride, and I was offered a horse by a rescue that I work with. This was a six-year-old gelding named Apache who was said to be quiet and ridable but not as well trained as my Rojo. Still, I gave him a trial ride and thought that he would be a good temporary substitute until Rojo recovered. Unfortunately I was quite wrong.
I decided to go for a ride on the day after Christmas, and Apache decided to freak out. To my credit, I was able to stay with him until I realized that he was about to flip over backwards. Although I tried to roll myself into a ball and launch myself out of the saddle to avoid having him fall on me, apparently I put my right hand out as I landed and as you can see I did a great deal of damage to it. I also scraped up the insides of my knees and my thighs pretty badly as I left saddle and ended up with a huge hematoma on my left knee, but that resolved itself.
I should have gone straight to my general practitioner!
During the first 24 hours, I really hoped that my wrist was just sprained. I practiced rest, ice compression and elevation, and I really didn't have much pain. Still, I couldn't use my hand at all and my wrist was decidedly crooked looking.
My accident happened about mid-afternoon on the 26th and by the same time the next day, I decided I'd better go to the hospital. I called my farrier, who is a good friend, to help me and he gave me a ride to the emergency room. This was a mistake because by then it wasn't really an emergency anymore. If I had it to do all over again, I would've made a same-day appointment see my general practitioner to get a diagnosis and a referral.
I spent hours and hours in the emergency room. The initial waiting time was short, but treatment took forever. All the staff and personnel were very nice and very accommodating, so it was pretty much a pleasant experience. Still, I think it would've been shorter with my GP; it would've been handled more efficiently, and it would've cost me a great deal less. I also would have received proper treatment much sooner.
I got multiple x-rays in the emergency room and was put under general anesthesia to have a splint applied. Although they told me that they were putting me under general anesthesia in order to perform reduction and attempt to realign my bones, there is absolutely no difference between the before and after x-rays. This really makes me wonder why they needed to put me under general anesthesia.The ER doctor said that I would probably need surgery, so I left with a referral to an orthopedic surgeon.
Sugar tong splint…
Don't get hurt if you're poor in Texas!
Because Texas is a red state, Medicaid is not expanded. As a starving writer, I live very far below the poverty level. You may not know this, but in red states that have not expanded Medicaid people who live very far below the poverty level get no coverage whatsoever. Since I pay a large percentage of my below poverty self-employment income towards federal taxes and get absolutely nothing in return, I feel this is very unfair.
This state of affairs turned out to be a problem when I called the orthopedic surgeon to whom I had been referred. His staff made it clear that I would be required to pay a sizable down payment and agree to a payment plan. I told them that I could make payments, but I did not have money to make a sizable down payment. They were unwilling to negotiate, and even though I called back several times I was never able to talk with the doctor or get an appointment.
I called the emergency room to see if I could get another referral, but they told me they were only able to make the initial referral while I was in the emergency room. By this time two days had passed, and I really didn't know what to do. I was in a very uncomfortable sugar tong splint which was intended to be temporary. It immobilized all of my fingers and my elbow and caused a great deal of swelling in my hand.
Over the next few days I talked with a number of people at the hospital where I been treated and got various suggestions that led me to call Parkland Hospital and a local free clinic but got me nowhere in terms of treatment.
Finally, I decided to try calling my general practitioner whom I had not seen in about 10 years. This was on a Friday, so I made an appointment to see him on the following Monday. I hoped that he would be able to give me a referral to an orthopedic surgeon who would be willing to simply accept payments.
I get by with a little help from my friends!
Since I type for a living, I was unable to work after breaking my wrist. I knew I would have a lot of expenses in addition to my regular household bills, so I started a GoFundMe campaign. I have been really pleased and overwhelmed by the tremendous kindness and assistance that I received from my fellow writers and the owner of the main content site for which I work, INeedArticles.com. Not only did he make a generous contribution, he also offered to match donations made by other writers! All this has been extremely helpful, and I'm a little over halfway to my GoFundMe goal. (Update: 9/12/15 - I ultimately reached about 2/3 of my goal, and this campaign is now closed. )
I've been able to keep my bills paid, purchase Dragon NaturallySpeaking and also get started on paying for my medical expenses.Although I am able to work pretty well with Dragon, I am not as productive as I was. We're still getting to know each other, and I'm a very fast typist. The thought processes for typing and talking are different, and I really can't talk as fast as I can type.
The clock is ticking!
On Monday, my uncle took me to my general practitioner's office. Everything went smoothly there, and my doctor was kind enough to hide in the hallway so that I wouldn't have to pay him for actually seeing him! I saw an intern (I think) who was very nice and relayed information back and forth between me and the doctor. I left with a referral to an orthopedic surgeon in a nearby city.
When I got home I made an appointment with the new orthopedic surgeon. Unfortunately he had a very busy schedule and would not be able to see me until Friday. If you're keeping track, you know that this means that over a week had passed since I broke my wrist, and another week would pass before I would see an orthopedic surgeon.
On Friday, my wonderful and helpful uncle took me to see the new orthopedic surgeon some 25 miles away; however, the surgeon was not there so I saw an assistant who was quite disgruntled with me over the passage of time. He told me that if I had come in the day after the accident they could've reset my bones and put on a cast without problem.
He said that now if he attempted that, it would not work and I would have pain the rest of my life and I would develop arthritis. He said that the alternative was surgery which would probably also not work but that he still recommended it. When I asked him how much it would cost, he said that he couldn't tell me but that it would cost "thousands and thousands of dollars".
I had done quite a bit of research on this kind of wrist fracture during the two weeks I had been casting about for a solution and had learned a number of alternative methods of treating it, but the assistant was not open to discussing alternatives. He pushed surgery and I felt pressured into feeling that it was my only option; even though, it would probably mean losing my home and going deeply in debt.
To add insult to injury, the assistant insisted on putting another sugar tong splint on my arm; even though, the one that I had just worn for two weeks had caused me a great deal of pain and discomfort. I was extremely distraught at the prospect of getting another one. Then to make matters even worse, as we were leaving he came up to us and said that the orthopedic surgeon had just called (apparently having seen my most recent x-rays) and was of the opinion that surgery "won't work, so see you Monday!"
Conservative Treatment Of A Colles Fracture
- AO Foundation
This video is similar to my treatment, but I didn't have anesthesia.
There has to be another way!
It seemed that the trip to the orthopedic surgeon had been a waste of time and money. I had expected to see the orthopedic surgeon and leave with treatment in the form of a smaller and lighter cast. I ended up with plans for exorbitantly priced treatment that wouldn't work and another temporary splint. I decided to send an email directly to the orthopedic surgeon describing some of the alternatives that I had learned about in the two weeks while I was casting about seeking treatment.
Later that evening, the orthopedic surgeon called me and we settled on a treatment compromise. Instead of surgery, I would return to his office for a combination of traction and manipulation of the bones without anesthesia followed by the application of a short arm cast that would stay on for two weeks. After that, a removable Aircast (which I could purchase myself for $150) would be used for the rest of the treatment.
This would've worked well if I had been able to be seen soon after the accident. As matters stand, the end result will be imperfect but functional. The treatment went smoothly, and the traction actually felt very good. I used a breathing technique and listened to music and felt no pain during the bone manipulation. The orthopedic surgeon's assistant performed this and did a good job. We had had a chance to discuss my disappointment regarding my first visit, and all is now well!
The short arm cast was a delight in comparison with the sugar tong splint, but it was still an instrument of torture. It was removed about 10 days ago. My hand had been immobilized for a month, and I could barely move my fingers. I had been researching hand and wrist therapy and had a number of YouTube videos ready to get started with as soon as I got home. That night I took a long hot bath did some aqua therapy and the next day my hand felt much better.
Wrist Brace For Daytime
This brace supports the wrist very nicely without impeding the thumb or restricting circulation.
This night splint is really comfortable and effective! The opening for the thumb is very capacious, so it does not restrict circulation. The area around the wrist is roomy and does not restrict circulation. There is a very comfy cushion for the palm. Metal inserts on top and bottom prevent the wrist from moving and can be removed so that the brace can be machine washed. My hand and wrist feel very good in the morning after sleeping with this brace.
The Aircast And Other Support And Braces
I actually only wore the Aircast for about a week. Even though it was much, much better than the sugar tong splint or the short arm cast, it was still too restrictive and cut off circulation to my thumb. I wanted something that would not restrict my use of my thumb and fingers. I looked on Amazon and found the wrist brace and night splint pictured here.
I really like these much better than the Aircast, but I think that the Aircast was necessary for the first week. Now I just use the wrist brace during the day when I am doing physical work, such as taking care of my yard and my animals. The rest of the time I just go without. This really helps keep the swelling down.
The night splint is very comfortable and doesn't cut off my circulation at all. It protects my wrist against bending while I'm asleep.
Now I spend a great deal of time in DIY physical therapy every day. I do two or three videos of hand and wrist exercises every morning and every evening and a few minutes at a time multiple times throughout the day. I use ice therapy in the early evenings when my hand is swollen. I use LED light therapy a couple of times a day as well.
I also practice my American sign language finger spelling alphabet and numbers 1-100 several times a day, albeit quite imperfectly. I'm pleased with the progress I'm making, and I hope that one day I'll be able to type, write by hand, sign, and finger spell again!
LED Light Therapy for Pain Relief
- LED Light Force Therapy Devices for Pain Relief
LED light therapy is an excellent alternative or addition to drug therapy for pain. I've been using it for many years for shoulder pain, and couldn't live without it!
DIY Physical Therapy For The Wrist
Here are the videos I do every day. I also pick out one or two videos at random daily to add new exercises. I am not yet able to make a fist, flex my wrist dorsally (backwards) support weight on my hand or completely turn my palm up.
Hand Comparison Eight Weeks In
I'll try to keep you updated!
I wish that I had been taking before-and-after pictures and doing videos of my abilities and progress, but having a broken wrist is a surprisingly befuddling experience. You'd think that I would be able to just sit here with my broken wrist and get back to work with Dragon, organize my daily affairs and keep an excellent record of my progress; however, this is not true.
Being unable to take care of activities of daily living as I normally would is quite exhausting. Additionally, I think that mending a broken bone consumes a lot of energy. I feel tired quite a bit and also very hungry. I'm eating more than usual, but people are telling me that I'm losing weight!
It's been a little over a month since I broke my wrist, and I am just now feeling enough energy to start getting back to work and to do things like writing this article. I will try to get some pictures and perhaps a video of my own DIY physical therapy attempts.
Watch this space!
Update February 20, 2015
To the right are some photos of my hands taken yesterday and today. You may think that my right hand looks terribly swollen, but it's really nothing compared to what it looked like before! Right after I had the cast taken off, it looked like a surgical glove filled with water. I could barely move it and couldn't flex my wrist at all.
In the lower picture, you'll see that I am clenching my fists. I am trying with all my might to close my right hand completely, but it just won't go at this point. Still, it's a lot better than it was. I was barely able to bend my fingers at all at first, and it gets a little bit better every day.
I'm able to touch my thumb to the tips of all of my fingers now. I can flex my wrist back slightly and down quite a bit. I also have a little bit of side to side movement, and I can pick light things up, turn water on and off and even turn some doorknobs!
My fine motor skills are coming back a little bit at a time, and I can button buttons and even did a little bit of rather inept sewing a couple of nights ago! I still have a very long way to go till full function though, and I hope that I will eventually be able to do all of the things I was once able to do.
Copyright:SuzanneBennett:February 10, 2015
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.